Today in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, thousands of Egyptians rallied to mark the first anniversary of the country’s 2011 uprising that began on Jan. 25, 2011, which led to then president Hosni Mubarak officially stepping down on February11, 2011, only to be replaced by military rule; and thus, what has cpme to be known as the Egyptian revolution essentially continues…
At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, one of the many films I screened was a gripping, visceral documentary titled 1/2 Revolution, directed by Omar Shargawi and Karim El Hakim – a raw 72-minute film that documents the uprising, and one that I encourage you to see if it, by some chance, screens at a theater near you.
I followed up my screening of the film with a review, which I included within this post below.
But first, if you have yet to see it, here’s its trailer:
And here are my thoughts on the film:
An immediate, visceral, first-person documentation of just a few days of a still ongoing struggle, one year after that first day, January 25, 2011 (also referred to as the “Day of Revolt“), when protests erupted throughout Egypt, with tens of thousands gathered in multiple cities all over the country, targeting the then autocratic governance of President Hosni Mubarak (30 years in the making) – the poverty, unemployment, and government corruption.
Armed with consumer cameras, a close-knit group of friends risk death to capture the historic waves of non-violent protests, met with an equally determined and violent response from the government and armed forces, further intensifying the danger of the circumstances that would eventually envelope them in their neighborhood near Tahrir Square during the early chaotic days of what has now come to be called the Egyptian revolution.
The viewer is practically thrown into the uprising from the first frame to the last. You’re right there with them, every step of the way (the tear gas, the batons, then the bullets) and are thus privy to events that you wouldn’t have seen in the mainstream media – bodies, battered and bloodied, lifeless, being dragged across concrete pavement by fellow protesters, bullets lodged in flesh, the impassioned screams for change, voices angry and resolute, willing to die for a cause.
It’s 72 minutes of relentless struggle and this viewer found it exhausting, as it should be. It suggests that the filmmakers accomplished what they set out to do with the film – not just paint a picture for the audience to view and analyze from a distance; we are thrown into the chaos, in the streets with them, as their struggle becomes ours as well; we’re invested and want to see them (or rather us) succeed.
And succeed they do, at least with forcing Mubarak to eventually step down under pressure, but only to be replaced with military junta rule, which is still in place a year later, hence the title of the film; meaning, the revolution hasn’t ended.
A luta continua as the saying goes.
No pomp and circumstance, no flash and dash, just raw footage of a few days of a historic moment in time, cut into a 72 minute rush.
A few moments of calm scattered about, usually filled with impassioned discourse about the events taking place, in real time, in the streets – the gunshots, the screams, the explosions just an ear-shot away; but it’s mostly storm.
It’s not really a film that I’d grade as either *good* or *bad*; it just is. And your appreciation for it will depend on your interest in and understanding of the real events the film documents; so a little backstory would help.
In fact, if I were to point out one of the film’s *weaknesses* it would be that it doesn’t give the audience enough information on what inspired this new revolution. There are exclamations here and there cursing Mubarak’s 30-year rule, but a basic (at least) awareness of the country’s recent history would be helpful here.
I couldn’t help but think of another movie about a revolution – Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle Of Algiers – the 1966 film on Algeria’s struggles for independence from under French rule; a film and a revolution that went on to inspire others (films and revolutions), just as I think 1/2 Revolution (directed by Omar Shargawi and Karim El Hakim) has the authenticity and power to do as well.